Cropped shot of a cheerful elderly woman hugging her husband who's in a wheelchair at home during the day

A stroke can happen suddenly and without warning. Because a stroke means that oxygen-rich blood is not reaching the brain due to a blockage or a bleed, every minute without treatment is a higher chance of death or disability.

Recognizing stroke signs and acting quickly can help prevent permanent brain damage and save your loved one’s life. So, how do you know someone is having a stroke? F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face drooping – During a stroke, one side of the face may droop or become numb. Ask the person to smile. Make sure they can maintain the smile on both sides.

Arm weakness – One arm may be weaker than the other during a stroke. Ask the person to raise both arms. Can they keep both sides up equally?

Speech difficulty – A stroke can cause speech to become slurred or incoherent. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, such as, “Today is Wednesday.”

Time to call 911 – If a person shows any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Don’t wait to see if symptoms subside. It’s important to get immediate medical treatment.

“When dealing with a stroke, we say ‘time is brain,’” said Dr. David Decker, neurologist and co-medical director of AdventHealth Tampa’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. “Every minute during a stroke, when the brain is not receiving oxygen from the blood, thousands of brain cells are permanently damaged. The quicker we can get these patients to treatment, the less likely it is they will die or suffer disability. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms and act quickly.”

At AdventHealth Tampa’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, expert neurologists, neurosurgeons and interventional neuroradiologists work closely with specially trained stroke response teams to provide comprehensive care quickly when time matters most.